Tuesday, December 16, 2008
The Bull Becomes Bresaola
It took almost three days to cut the bull (some will argue that I never stopped) that came back from the slaughterhouse last week. About 300 pounds of it was ground into hamburger, the bones have thus far yielded about 20 gallons of stock (there are more than half to be processed), I reserved a loin for dry aging, the tenderloins are steak and the rest is on the path to becoming cured and air-dried beef in the form of bresaola.
In the following slideshow you will see some of the meat being cleaned and cured. It will stay in the cure for about two weeks after which the herbs and spices will be scrubbed off prior to being tied and hung in the aging room. I suspect that it will take at least 4 weeks of aging before it is dry enough to be sold.
I think that this meat is going to yield the best air-dried beef imaginable. Just take a look at the color and you will know I'm right. That deep-red color equals deep beefy flavor that is not possible in an animal whose liberty and movement is restricted as is normally the case in cattle raised for beef. This is meat from a bull that has lived for more than two years in a large pasture and has spent its days chasing cows and well, you know, getting lots of exercise.
The color and texture is more typical of venison and the flavor is intensely beefy.Because there is almost no marbling to lubricate the meat, the only way to eat this stuff is raw or very rare. Cooking even the tenderloins above rare turns the meat hard and dry.
You know, seeing this meat for the first time last week "brought me back" to my first restaurant job. My chef, Rene Chardin, was a great cook who, like all great cooks, believed in doing almost everything from scratch. He used to smoke salmon in a converted early 20th century cabinet style electric clothes dryer that had been left behind by the original owner of the mansion (a daughter of Alexander Graham Bell) in which he built his restaurant. He raised pheasant and trout, was a great charcutier and a true believer in only using ingredients that were densely packed with flavor. For steak tartar he only used top round from a bull that had not been confined and finished on grain. In other words, a bull just like the one I butchered last week.